The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 118

The Missing Element: HIV/AIDS in Urban Development Planning


26 April 2002

Author: Mirjam Van Donk

Publication Date: 2002

Research for this paper started from the premise that in South Africa HIV/AIDS is predominantly construed as a health issue and that, as a consequence, urban development planning is not sufficiently taking into account the destabilising effects of the HIV/AIDS crisis on the social fabric in communities, on political participation and on the urban economy.

To investigate this proposition, I first embarked on a process of investigation into how HIV/AIDS is presented in international development debates and found that the medical bias has also prevailed there. Increasingly, though, as the epidemic progresses and its devastating impacts start to become visible to policy makers, there is a shift from a medical conceptualisation of HIV/AIDS to a recognition that HIV/AIDS is a development concern.

Chapter 1 and 2 elaborate on what this means. Given that the epidemic in most developing countries is concentrated in urban areas, the implications for urban development are significant. Yet, a further step in my investigation showed that there is a paucity of data on the nature and manifestation of HIV/AIDS in urban areas and, subsequently, a lack of analysis on the relevance of the epidemic for urban development planning.

Clearly, the conceptual framing of HIV/AIDS as a medical issue has contributed to this omission. Other reasons for this oversight relate to the invisibility of the epidemic, the politically sensitive nature of HIV/AIDS and the complexity of the issue. Furthermore, the epidemic is not occurring in a vacuum, but has inserted itself into a domain already characterised by great complexity.

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